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Political student groups gear up for 2020 election

While the College Republicans and the Collegiate Group for Trump have united in supporting the president’s reelection bid, Democratic groups are split in their support.
Image by Parker Johnson
College Republicans President Kirby Gibson poses outside Johnson Hall on Sunday, Sep. 20. Gibson is looking at alternative ways to mobilize and promote campaigns now that safety concerns discourage in-person meetings.

After a crowded campaigning season, political groups on campus are beginning to buckle down for the 2020 presidential election.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a chaotic Democratic run-up, University of Minnesota political student groups are pushing to mobilize in the Zoom era. While the conservative groups have endorsed President Donald Trump, groups on the left have taken varied stances on the upcoming election.

Following most Democratic candidates’ slow withdrawal from the race, University groups have either dissolved or pooled their resources together to support the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ticket.

Despite Elizabeth Warren’s withdrawal in March, past and present members of Students for Warren still heavily mobilize support for other Democratic candidates both locally and nationally. According to Students for Warren President Kyle Sorbe, the group has endorsed Joe Biden, Senator Tina Smith, Rep. Angie Craig and Rep. Ilhan Omar in their election or reelection bids.

Sorbe said that while many members of the group would rather vote for more progressive candidates, the group is willing to make sacrifices in the name of political strategy.

“I think that the overarching mantra, now that progressives have dropped out of the presidential race, is that progressive ideas can’t get done if we don’t flip the Senate,” Sorbe said. “That’s definitely one of the main drivers for a lot of our members.”

According to Students for Pete Buttigieg President Rosemary Patton, the group supporting presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign has mostly dissolved at this point, but its members still strongly support Democratic candidates. The group was in the process of transitioning support to the Biden bid shortly after Buttigieg dropped out.

Students for Bernie, one of the largest University Democratic groups, has not officially endorsed any candidate yet.

After helping to secure Sanders’ primary win on-campus and at surrounding precincts in March, Chair Sean Lim said that the platform differences between Biden and Sen. Sanders are too different to justify an automatic endorsement from the group. They’ve now pivoted toward promoting voter turnout.

“Although we haven’t formally endorsed as a group yet, it is absolutely crucial that we get folks out and voting in this election on the issues that affect them,” Lim said.

Lim said that the group has since dispersed and spread resources elsewhere, like working for the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party and other campaigns. Group leaders are now having discussions about what to do next.

The College Republicans and the Collegiate Group for Trump are endorsing the president’s reelection bid. According to College Republicans President Kirby Gibson, the two groups have merged in their support of the president and have pooled their resources. The groups are also receiving support from the greater Turning Point USA chapter.

“We’re definitely doing what we can with our resources to make sure we can flip Minnesota red,” Gibson said.

The state has voted in favor of a Democratic president as far back as Nixon in 1972.

Zoom on the left; business-as-usual on the right

Despite supporting separate sides of the aisle, all groups do face one similar issue: How do you mobilize in a global pandemic?

Both sides have said outside registration efforts, for example — like social media apps linking voter registration pages and other social distance-friendly methods — do help their cause. However, most groups are still stumped on how to effectively campaign while following safety protocols and University Student Unions and Activities rules.

Democratic groups seem keen on keeping with social distancing and COVID-19 safety precautions at all costs, following the lead of the DFL. Sorbe said that virtual events, phone banking and other phone call initiatives have been effective so far.

“Campaigning is definitely looking a little different this year,” Sorbe said. “But the Democratic Party in the DFL is extremely well organized, so digital outreach is definitely still going to be effective in getting Trump out of office.”

Meanwhile, Republican groups seemed to be contemplating more simple, in-person solutions, such as moving potential meetings off-campus or waiting until University restrictions loosen later in the semester. They are currently working on meeting plans and door knocking initiatives for surrounding areas.

“We sent out a poll to a bunch of the people in our club about how they wanted to do it … and over 80% of people said they wanted to meet somewhere off campus and do the meetings in person,” Gibson said. “It’s kind of a ‘got to wait and see and hope for the best’ [situation], I guess.”

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  • A Gopher
    Sep 25, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    I’m not accusing you of far-leftism or anything like that. Just detailing what my experience has been with Trumpers at this point. They don’t seem to care about anything than “owning libtards,” their term, not mine (hence the quotes). I think the amount of Dark Money pouring into republicans reveals their true motives. They are nothing more than free agents available for the highest bidder.

  • praiseinterracialmarriages
    Sep 24, 2020 at 11:36 am

    A Gopher,

    What is your point. I am not a member of the far left. I have friends who are conservatives who refuse to vote for Mr. Trump due to his base character and many very stupid decisions — and his authoritarian “I’m always right” attitude. The guy was a cheater to get into an Ivy League school and was a C student — a high grade for a guy that went on to bankrupt his companies five times and lead his low achieving brethren into a life of ignorance and refusal to early on go along with masks and distancing — as the rest of the world which managed the pandemic did.

    You seem to be speaking in between the lines again. If you want to reply to me, detail just exactly to what you are responding to on a point by point basis as you go along. Avoid sarcasm. That doesn’t work well in writing. Be straightforward and civil. I believe you make an effort to remain civil, but you are full of attitude and short on specifics. Talk to a person, not an idea. What is a “libtard”? Trump is running for the oil and coal industry when there are greater gains to be made by investing in alternative energy start-ups. I have a friend who owns 80 gas stations, restaurants and convenience stores. A woman I know is a financial advisor to the Saudi and Qatari royal families and the Emir of Kuwait. The dad of a college friend is an oil sheikh in Saudi Arabia.

    How was your response relevant to anything I said, and how could you have offered a more pointed and thoughtful response — in a full thought with more than one paragraph? Are you writing on a cell phone or a PC or tablet. Cell phone writers and readers are brain dead. They don’t communicate in a literate and intelligent manner and want only to read one screen. I support the use of larger screens and the use of more time to compose and read ideas.

  • praiseinterracialmarriages
    Sep 24, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    My “brain-dead” comment was a poor choice. I have spoken to someone who reads on cell-phones as a matter of their professional life and they have done very well in life.

  • A Gopher
    Sep 24, 2020 at 10:31 am

    People endorsing Trump at this point are doing so merely to “own libtards.” It gives them a special thrill to do something that pisses off the far-left. The hatred and enmity the right feels towards the left was exacerbated under Obama and the many micro aggressions taken: increased political correctness, cancel culture, mandated custom pronouns, intrusion on business freedoms, etc. What the left fails to grasp is that for every action or every micro aggression towards the right there will be an equal and opposite reaction from them. That is, until we all stop playing team ball and use our brains to think analytically before accusing everyone of racism or transphobia just for not agreeing with every insane policy the far-left has in a fever dream.

  • praiseinterracialmarriages
    Sep 23, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    I’m surprised the Sanders committee hasn’t endorsed Biden, as Senator Bernie Sanders did. With regard to the Republican committees, many top Republicans, including a former chairman of the RNC and Cindy McCain have endorsed Joe Biden. Mr. Trump has made a mess of foreign policy and doesn’t listen to his intelligence advisors, his military advisors, his medical advisers or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has indicated their concern for, and their disagreement with, the trade wars that Mr. Trump has instigated — making it bad for farm families and corporations. Mr. Trump’s character is an anathema of what a president should look like: he flouts expert advice, he has a poor record in school, he is someone who has created problems for women, he has been divorced many times, and he has bankrupted his companies five times. The bankruptcies alone would make him ineligible for professional securities licenses.

    Those people who are endorsing Mr. Trump apparently do not care about our standing in the world or to have people with integrity leading our nation: Mr. Trump has alienated many past and current members of his administration and world leaders. His decisions have created fodder for criminal prosecution of his friends and advisors serving him as president, and he is currently under investigation for tax and insurance fraud. He refused to pay Ukrainian employees working for his development company their due wages, and he took money intended for charity aimed at assisting veterans and used it for personal gain; and he was found in violation of laws for doing so. He is not anyone who I would want at my dinner table.

    Mr. Trump’s reality television show provided insight into his arrogance and insensitivity with his famous words “You’re fired” at the end of every program. People with not a lot of experience may vote for him on the basis of his “public relations” appeal, but unfortunately he is an indication of a European joke about Americans which I encountered while studying in Europe thirty-five years ago: “Americans are like popcorn: A lot of fluff with no substance.” Mr. Trump’s environmental policies flies in the face of gains that previous Republicans have voted for over decades.

    Whether the young men and women of the University of Minnesota Republican community like to think so or not, Mr. Trump is poison to democracy and good living. His environmental policies, and his desire to kill Social Security, will create hardship for millions of Americans and people worldwide for decades to come. And if you think a college degree is a ticket to wealth, you are dead wrong. While I came from an affluent family having relations of various kinds with two U.S. vice presidents from Minnesota, I was caught with a disability which hindered my professional and financial development for decades. I am only now able to proceed in business at the age of 58-years, and this is only because I used credit and savings to start businesses.

    Most people have a difficult time finding work after about the age of their mid-forties, as employers tend to hire younger employees who they can train, believing that older employees cannot be trained and will not be around long enough to make their investment into training a good choice. An acquaintance of mine who attended Carleton College, University of Chicago and Northwestern University, and who is an MBA with a background in international finances, and who is an advisor for royal and the political and financial elite, and noble families in other nations, indicated that getting an MBA so late in my life would likely provide for difficult searches in employment for the same reasons as I just provided in getting employment in other work.

    Getting a college education is one thing. Actually being of value to one’s community and family is quite another. Voting for Mr. Trump is an all around bad idea given Mr. Trump’s propensity toward authoritarianism and his failure to listen to experts. Put yourself in the position of someone who is hired by the Trump administration to offer good advice — only to be ignored and trampled upon by his insidious tweeting and dismissals. He is no hero of the thinking and educated person. Please follow members of the Republican Party who have joined The Lincoln Project — a group of men and women who have been Republicans, often for decades, who see through Mr. Trump’s thin veneer of leadership, and will vote for Mr. Biden. If you are a Sander’s fan, please endorse Mr. Biden as Mr. Sanders did long ago.